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How Crisis Communication Plans Work


Crisis Communication Team
A crisis can include a press conference such as this United Nations conference responding to the global water crisis.
A crisis can include a press conference such as this United Nations conference responding to the global water crisis.
© Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Crises have the potential to ignite a media frenzy -- or worse, widespread panic in the general public. The middle of a crisis is no time to start assembling a crisis management team or to begin reaching out to the media [source: About.com]. By mapping out a clear, workable crisis communication plan early (and revising it often), an organization can emerge from a potential disaster with its image intact or perhaps even enhanced [source: U.S. Department of State].

First, let's list the chief components of a good crisis communication plan, and then we'll go over each one in detail. These components are:

  • A crisis communication team
  • An internal communications plan
  • A media strategy
  • A list of potential weaknesses and plans to address them
  • Updated information on the organization itself and its programs

Crisis Communication Team

The job of the crisis communication team is to create and execute the overall crisis communication plan. Team members are assigned specific roles, such as gathering contact information from all employees or establishing relationships with members of the local media. Depending on the organization's size, a typical crisis communication team could include:

  • The CEO
  • The head of public relations
  • Vice presidents and managers of key departments
  • The safety or security officer
  • Company lawyers

The first job of the crisis communication team is to select an official spokesperson. The spokesperson will be the primary contact for all media inquiries. They will run all press conferences and give most interviews during a crisis. They should be very experienced in working with both print and broadcast media.

The spokesperson must be extremely knowledgeable about the organization and be comfortable in front of a TV camera, with the ability to project calm and inspire confidence. They also should know how to condense complicated arguments into key talking points and how to stress those points in an interview without appearing to avoid tough questions.


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